It’s Mental Health or Academic Performance – You Can’t Have Both


heart and brain on a seesaw - mental health or academic performanceMy toddler cries at the front door. Mom, I want to go OUTSIDE. It’s a beautiful day — the perfect temperature. Yet, I look down at her and my heart sinks. I want to go, too. But I have to help your sister with a Zoom call on the iPad. 

Upstairs, her 7-year-old sister fumbles with the iPad. Inexperienced with screens, she doesn’t understand how to unmute herself let alone navigate to the correct app. (She also is still learning how to read which makes all of it more challenging). I don’t want to do another Zoom! I just want to play. 

In another room, the 5-year-old wants to know when lunch is. It is 9:15am so it’s 2nd Breakfast time at best. Her academic day doesn’t start until 11:45 and is in person and lasts less than three hours. In the meantime she’s wondering when her best friend, the 7-year-old, will be off her Zoom call. 

Meanwhile, her mother (that’s me), wonders how she’ll be in three places at one time. All the while trying to run a business (spoiler alert – it’s this website), keep her kids alive, not fall into the depths of despair, and remember to sometimes shower. And truthfully, the showering is way down on the list. Honestly, what is the point anymore?! 

When did this all go so wrong? Why do I feel like we’re all being forced to choose between mental health and academic performance?

These are the hardest of times and making it through the day unscathed is cause for celebration. Yet, now that school is back in session, we’re expected to prioritize academic performance again. Our kids are expected to once again care about digraphs and sight words and math boxes and number grids. And we are supposed to care about all of those things again, too.   

I feel like I just ran a marathon and someone’s at the finish line shouting, now do it again! But this time, act like you REALLY mean it!

I am angry. I don’t know at whom, but I am super angry. 

I know who I’m NOT mad at:

Not my kids. They just want to play and be kids. They don’t want to Zoom and Google Classroom and Seesaw and Homeroom and all-the-freaking-apps. It’s not their fault they can’t sit still or can’t pay attention to a 45 minute-long class.

I’m not angry with the teachers. Just like my children and me, they are having to choose between their mental health and academic performance. We are asking so much of them right now, it’s actually insane. Plus, many of them have children at home dealing with all of this.  

Even though I act like I am, I’m not angry with my husband. He works hard and doesn’t have any kind of flexibility at work to support remote-learning. Do I sometimes want to stab him while he sleeps? Sure. But this is not his fault. 

I’m not mad at school administrators. Is there any solution that would serve everyone well right now? Do I wish they chose a solution that served my family better? Absolutely. But I’m not naive enough to think that my way would be the best way.  

Not knowing who to be angry with is part of what’s making me so angry. 

I guess I just want to throw in the towel. (Readers, it is literally Day One of Remote Learning and I am writing that. Day. One. Jesus, take the wheel). 

The cost of this all feels SO high. We don’t have the extra funds for a pandemic pod or private school tuition. And I resent the idea that I need to lay my life and career down for remote learning. 

Honestly, I just want the record to show that I am clinging to the big picture here. That, when faced with the decision between mental health and academic performance I will choose mental health every time. Every. Time. For my kids and also for me.

We’re going to choose outdoor time over screen time. Play over work. Crayons over keyboards. IRL vs. virtual. 

That, amidst the asynchronous and synchronous and remote and hybrid and the in-person and the alternating days, I’m going to choose us. And I made peace with that a long time ago. You know, like three years ago in March 2020. When I look at myself and the world at large, I know being well-adjusted and emotionally stable matters more than being a top notch student. 

I don’t have answers. Oh gosh, I hope you didn’t read this far looking for some. Honestly, I just want to go back to when my biggest problem was finding pants my kids actually liked to wear (this has become an even bigger problem during Covid, FYI).

All I know is that this is not working. This isn’t going to work. The cost of our children’s academic performance is their mental health and I am not OK with that. WE. WANT. OUT.  

We want a gap year. We want a do-over. A freaking time out. We just want our kids (and us) to be let off the hook. Can someone come over the loudspeaker and give us a bye-year? Could we get Morgan Freeman to do it, do you think? But seriously, could we just back off for a hot second and prioritize what we need to prioritize? That maybe getting kids together (on Zoom or in masks) to learn all the book things isn’t as important as getting them together to connect and play? The “book things” (technical term) are very important but can they wait? Because, I’m not sure if their emotional and mental health can. 

Ugh, I’m so angry. But beneath all of that, I’m so sad. Our kids deserve better. They NEED better. And who is going to give it to them? I don’t know. I really, really don’t know. 

I’m just a mom, standing in front of a Zoom call, asking her child to leave the meeting. 

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Allison’s mission in life is to notice the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her commitment to see beyond what’s in front of her was fostered by her degree in Philosophy and Theology from Boston College. Allison’s a book nerd and credits her parents and inspiring English teachers for her love of reading and writing. She went on to earn her Master in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College and then taught high school for several years, both in New England and San Francisco. After moving from San Francisco to Boston with her engineer husband, she began teaching yoga and working as a social media marketing consultant. Now a Portsmouth resident, she spends most of her days with her three daughters (she does not have enough arms) and does her best to find the bliss amidst the endless snacking, dance parties and tiaras. With all the beautiful chaos in her life, she’s grateful to have her partner-in-crime (husband Charlie) and fellow movie quote enthusiast alongside her. Her passion for writing first drew her to Seacoast Moms as a contributing writer, and her desire to connect moms of the Seacoast with businesses who serve and interest them led her to become SM’s owner. Being able to write about the ordinary grace present in motherhood, while interacting with incredible Seacoast business owners is a dream come true.


  1. You just described my day almost exactly. I’m SO angry. This is SO not fair to our kids. They deserve better. And showering is SO far down the list I can’t keep track of when I last showered. But I can’t actually shower, because on day one of Zoom school (today), our shower is leaking into our kitchen below, and when we tested the other shower, the toilet in that bathroom exploded. And one of children pooped in the tub tonight… So now I’m just wrapping up my work day 🙂 Sending you love and we can get through this. We can do hard things, and keep our kids sane.

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